Surface mount technology (SMT) has transformed electronics manufacturing in recent decades. SMT mounts components directly on the PCB surface without through holes. This allows smaller and more automated assembly.
SMT placement machines accurately pick surface mount components from reels or trays using vacuum nozzles and precisely place them onto PCBs at high speeds.
Companies across consumer electronics, automotive, aerospace, medical, and other industries rely on these machines to assemble their PCBs.
One such company is PCBMay, one of China’s largest PCB manufacturers. By leveraging high-end SMT lines, PCBMay can produce boards for everything from smartphones to industrial equipment.
What is SMT?
Surface mount technology (SMT) attaches components directly to the PCB surface instead of through holes. SMT components have metal pads that solder to matching pads on the PCB.
SMT allows smaller and lighter products. It packs components densely on both sides of PCBs without holes. SMT works with automated assembly like pick-and-place machines. Components come on tapes and reels for easy handling.
SMT Is the Method of Putting Electronic Components on PCBs
SMT accommodates microelectronics as traditional insert mounts were unsuitable for tiny surface mount chips. High-volume consumer electronics rely predominantly on SMT today.
However, SMT does have some disadvantages.
It makes repairs and modifications harder compared to through-hole PCBs. The solder joint stresses can also impact reliability. Proper design and assembly process control is critical. Thermal management is an important consideration due to higher density.
Overall, the benefits of miniaturization and automation provided by SMT have made it the assembly method of choice for modern electronics.
Overview of SMT Placement Machines
SMT placement machines, also known as pick-and-place machines or mounters, are automated systems used to place surface mount components onto PCBs during electronics manufacturing. They are key equipment in any SMT assembly line.
Modern SMT pick-and-place machines utilize advanced techniques to achieve extremely fast and accurate component placement. They use computer vision with cameras and lasers to precisely locate board fiducials and component pads.
Precision robotic motion control enables the pick-and-place heads to move components from feeders to PCBs with accuracies reaching 0.02mm. Multiple heads allow simultaneous multi-site placement, drastically reducing assembly times.
Feeders containing taped components are loaded onto large-capacity racks. Tape widths range from 8mm to 56mm. Solenoid or vacuum nozzles on the placement heads pick components and place them on the solder paste-coated pads on the PCBs.
On-head or in-line metrology verifies component placement accuracy. High-end flexible machines can handle component sizes from 0.4mm chips up to 55mm x 80mm odd-forms. Speeds exceed 100,000 components per hour.
SMT Placement Machines Are Also Known as Pick-And-Place Machines
PCB support systems hold boards firmly during assembly. Conveyor ovens reflow the solder paste after population. The entire assembly process is optimized through software that integrates CAD data, component libraries, pick-and-place sequences, and inspection parameters.
By automating high-precision surface mount assembly, SMT placement machines enable mass production of electronic products with shorter time-to-market and lower costs.
Types of SMT machines
There are several types of SMT placement machines designed for different production needs:
Pick-and-place machines are the most common type of SMT mounter. They use automatic pick-up heads to take components from feeders and accurately place them onto PCBs. The main types include:
High-speed mounters: For very fast component placement. Multi-head for production volumes over 30,000 boards/day.
Flexible placement machines: Handle a wide range of components. Exchangeable heads for optimal speeds.
Dual delivery mounters: Improve flexibility using two feeders per component.
Odd-form placers: For large, heavy, and fragile components.
Chip shooters: High-speed mounting of tiny chip components.
Stencil printers use a metal stencil to apply a precise pattern of solder paste onto the PCB pads. This is a preparatory step before surface mount placement.
Stencils are laser-cut for each unique PCB design. Stencil printers optimize paste dispensing and board support for consistent printing across entire production batches.
Speed, accuracy, flexibility, and reliability are key specs to consider when selecting SMT placement machines. The type of mounter must align with production volumes and product complexity.
Reflow ovens use precisely controlled heating zones to form solder joints by reflowing the solder paste deposited during printing. Infrared, convection, or vapor phase heating is used. Profiles are optimized to ensure even heating without damaging components.
Reflow Oven SMT Machine
Wave Soldering Machines
Used for soldering through-hole component leads and bottom-side SMT components in a single pass. A wave of molten solder in the machine forms solder joints with the underside of boards as they pass over it.
Nitrogen blanketing prevents oxidation. Ideal for high-volume double-sided PCB production.
10 Best SMT Machine Manufacturers
With countless models available, selecting the right SMT equipment requires careful vetting of top manufacturers.
Fuji Corporation has been a key player in the SMT industry, known for its cutting-edge technology and robust machine construction. Their equipment is renowned for its high productivity, precision, and versatility, catering to a wide range of assembly needs.
Fuji consistently innovates, particularly in areas like automation and software integration, which enhances the efficiency and accuracy of SMT processes.
They offer a comprehensive range of products, including high-speed pick-and-place machines, flexible mounters, and intelligent software solutions for production line management.
With a strong global network, Fuji provides excellent customer support and service, making it a preferred choice for many electronics manufacturers worldwide.
Please visit their website: https://smt.fuji.co.jp/en/product/
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., while widely known for its motorcycles, also has a significant presence in the SMT equipment market. Yamaha SMT section delivers a combination of speed, reliability, and innovation.
Yamaha’s integration of advanced robotics into their SMT machines ensures high precision and efficiency.
Their product lineup, which includes printers, dispensers, mounters, and inspection systems, is designed to handle a diverse range of SMT applications.
Yamaha’s commitment to customer satisfaction is evident in its responsive service and ability to tailor solutions to specific manufacturing needs.
Please visit their website: https://global.yamaha-motor.com/business/smt/
Europlacer has carved a niche in the SMT industry, particularly admired for its flexible and innovative pick-and-place machines.
Europlacer’s machines are celebrated for their flexibility, and ability to handle a wide variety of component types and sizes without sacrificing speed or accuracy.
Their emphasis on intuitive interfaces and ergonomic machine design enhances the user experience and operational efficiency.
Consistently receiving industry awards, Europlacer has established a reputation for reliability and exceptional service in the SMT sector.
Please visit their website: https://europlacer.com/
Headquartered in Japan, Panasonic is a large electronics company that manufactures a diverse range of SMT equipment.
Their high-speed mounters like the NM-E series contain dedicated heads for ultra-fast mounting of tiny 01005 and 0201 components. The laser-supported HM301 machines provide highly precise and flexible placement across multiple PCB types and components.
For flexible lines, Panasonic’s Panasert series delivers multi-size odd-form component mounting at high volumes. The modular architecture enables custom configurations.
Panasonic’s stencil printers integrate high-quality printheads, 2D paste inspection, and monitoring systems. Their reflow ovens feature multi-zone convection heating for reliable and consistent soldering.
Mycronic is a Swedish high-tech company focused on flexible, agile SMT assembly solutions.
Their MY700 high-speed mounter is designed for Industry 4.0, with integrated inline 3D AOI inspection, advanced analytics, and predictive maintenance. MYSmart support automation maximizes up-time.
For ultimate flexibility, Mycronic offers the MY300 platform combining jet printing and multi-function mounter heads. This enables rapid changeover between pick-and-place, jet printing, and dispensing technologies.
Mycronic also provides high-precision 3D AOI and paste inspection systems leveraging AI and advanced algorithms for quality control. Their solutions scale from low to high-volume production.
Please visit their website: https://www.mycronic.com/product-areas/pcb-assembly/products/smt/
Kurtz Ersa is a German SMT equipment manufacturer formed by the merger of Ersa and Kurtz.
Their portfolio includes ultra-high speed mounters like the Ersa VERSAFLOW series which delivers over 200,000 cph throughput powered by an advanced conveyor system. It handles components down to 01005 chips.
For high-mix lines, the Ersa i-CON series offers convertible placement heads and transport concepts to quickly switch between speed and multi-function heads. Their reflow soldering solutions include convection, vapor phase, and vacuum ovens.
Kurtz Ersa provides equipment for stencil printing, 3D inspection, dispensing, spare parts, and process knowledge to maximize quality and yields. Their solutions cover prototypes to mass production.
Rehm is a German manufacturing specialist focused exclusively on thermal processing technologies for electronics.
Their convection reflow soldering systems are designed to deliver maximum thermal uniformity and process control. Rehm ovens utilize optimized multi-zone convection heating and innovative airflow concepts.
Key models are the Rehm Voyager series for high-mix flex lines and the Rehm Synergy series for high-volume conveyorized production. Rehm’s process expertise helps optimize reflow profiles.
Please visit their website: https://www.rehm-group.com/en/index.html
Faroad is a Chinese electronics manufacturing equipment provider specializing in SMT reflow ovens.
Their extensive product range covers small-batch convection ovens to high-volume multi-zone conveyorized systems. Faroad leverages advanced 3D thermal profiling and machine learning algorithms to optimize reflow heating.
Key offerings are the Faroad Tempo series of high-performance modular ovens and the Blaze continuous conveyor reflow systems. Installations worldwide demonstrate the quality and reliability of their ovens.
Please visit their website: https://faroadsmt.com/
JBC is a Spanish technology company focused on advanced soldering and control systems, including reflow ovens.
Their Enclosed Atmospheric conveyorized reflow oven integrates localized convection modules above and below the transport rail along with an encapsulated heated tunnel. This achieves excellent thermal transfer efficiency and accuracy.
For smaller volumes, the JBCbenchtop IR-E3 is an economic infrared batch oven with a max PCB size of 330 x 330 mm. JBC leverages AI for real-time oven optimization.
Please visit their website: https://www.jbctools.com/
Indium Corporation is a leading materials science company specializing in soldering products, including SMT reflow oven fluxes.
Their TACFlux® 020B is a no-clean flux designed specifically for nitrogen reflow ovens. It promotes excellent soldering under inert atmospheres across a wide temperature range while minimizing defects.
Indium also manufactures solder pastes, preforms, thermal interface materials, and more. Their expertise helps maximize SMT quality and efficiency.
Please visit their website: https://www.indium.com/applications/pcb-assembly/surface-mount-technology/
SMT Machine Calibration and Maintenance
Proper calibration and preventive maintenance are crucial for keeping SMT placement machines, printers, and reflow ovens running at optimal performance and accuracy.
Here are key aspects:
Routine maintenance schedules must be established and followed. Typical schedules range from daily to monthly tasks.
Daily procedures include visual inspections, cleanliness checks, wipe-downs, and feeder/nozzle checks.
Pick-and-place mounters require extensive calibration to maintain precision placement accuracy. Vision system calibration verifies camera focus, magnification, and alignment.
Nozzle tip calibration ensures consistent pick and place heights. Feeder position calibration is also critical.
On mounters, XY motion systems must be calibrated periodically to account for positional errors caused by repeatable mechanical inaccuracies over time. This involves using calibration kits with reference PCBs and software adjustment of placement programs.
Stencil printers require regular inspection and cleaning between prints to maintain printing consistency and avoid clogging or damage. The stencils themselves need cleaning and inspection for any perforation defects or clogged apertures.
Reflow ovens require careful thermocouple calibration and profiling to ensure thermal uniformity over time. Conveyors and mechanisms should be inspected and lubricated. Filters and heaters need cleaning.
Maintenance tasks should only be performed by qualified technicians following safety procedures outlined by OEMs. Machine downtime should be minimized.
Data from calibrations, diagnostics, and inspections help predict problems before failures occur. Well-maintained machines are essential for maximizing SMT quality and throughput.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Are the Main Differences Between High-Speed and Flexible SMT Machines?
High-speed SMT machines are designed for rapid, large-volume production, prioritizing speed and efficiency. Flexible SMT machines, on the other hand, are tailored for smaller batches with a variety of components, offering versatility and ease in changing setups.
2. How Often Should Maintenance Be Performed on SMT Machines?
Maintenance frequency for SMT machines varies based on usage intensity and manufacturer recommendations. Typically routined daily checks and more thorough monthly or quarterly inspections are advised to ensure optimal performance and longevity.
3. What is the SMD and SMC?
SMD (Surface Mount Device) refers to electronic components mounted directly onto the surface of PCBs, while SMC (Surface Mount Component) is another term used to describe these types of components.
Surface mount technology has transformed electronics assembly, enabling automated high-speed production. SMT placement machines are critical to this process with their ability to populate PCBs with extremely high accuracy and flexibility using advanced techniques.
Proper selection, utilization, and maintenance of SMT equipment based on production environments and volumes is key to maximizing quality and efficiency.
For businesses seeking an expert partner for their PCB and electronics manufacturing needs, PCBMay is a top global provider and leading technologist when it comes to SMT production. With extensive experience across a wide range of industries, PCBMay can help take your products from prototypes to high-volume production using the latest SMT assembly solutions.
Contact us to discuss how their SMT capabilities can benefit your business.
Explore top SMT machine manufacturers for efficient PCB assembly. Discover advanced tech in pick-and-place, soldering, and inspection for electronics.